A large pitch, four balls and three hundred children in a free-for-all. This is how the adventure of the female rugby team started at Satrokala, in the Ihorombe region in southern Madagascar. A gauntlet thrown down one spring afternoon two years ago, which was only to provide an opportunity for some collective letting off steam, a time of recreation for young adolescents used to living in the shadow of structural poverty, often worsened by the absence of educational and cultural activities. So on the red ground, with children dressed in a multitude of colours, amid the sound of voices and flowing plaits, a sports project was created which has embraced both young people and adults initiating processes of social inclusion. Exciting development has taken place around the operating base of Tozzi Green Madagascar which for some years has been investing in the land of Madagascar to make fertile lands that for centuries have been uncultivated. Alongside plantations of maize and soy, fruit trees and geranium growing areas, the adjacent village has grown to three times its original size becoming a point of reference for the entire district. Roads have been illuminated, water supplies improved with fountains along the streets, a medical facility and two infants schools have been built. A community effort where about one thousand jobs have been created and social and health “civilisation” practices have been established.
The “turning point” in the area of sports came about as the result of a meeting with the “Terres en Mêlées” non-government French organisation, a concern that works internationally using rugby as a vehicle to propose educational models, stimulating physiological and cognitive education. So, after the first year where the girls supported by Tozzi Green took part in some competitions in the region, leaving their villages for the first time in their lives and reaching the sea, in this 2017 the project became a genuine rugby academy. A path of growth, conceived from two viewpoints: sports activities and environmental education. In fact everyone who wants to play has to attend the schools and take courses in civic education on the use of water, the soil and the land. A path of awareness and self-determination in a country which is often still seriously lacking from this viewpoint. Rugby as a school of life, loyalty, fairness and the very sense of being together. School and sport, to become adult men and women capable of governing their own destiny.
The experiment, open to all obviously, has achieved spectacular results in terms of participation and enthusiasm. So the first national solidarity rugby tournament, with matches between male and female teams from all regions, was organised in cooperation with the Madagascar Rugby Federation and the Ministry of Education. After a month of elimination rounds and face-offs the final was played on 25 June at Malacam Stadium of Antananarivo before ten thousand spectators. It was in fact the “Ihorombe Rugby Academy” female team supported by Tozzi Green that achieved the best results. After winning the semifinal of the centre-south region the final was played with the winner of the centre-north semifinal, a team which for some years has been competing on rugby pitches for some years. The veterans won but the result in sporting and human terms had consequences of great importance, demonstrating the desire of these girls for liberation, the will to escape with tenacity and determination from the difficulties of a world which for centuries has been confined to the narrow streets of village of barren roads and flat horizons. Team dynamics, cohesion, contact, loyalty and respect for the adversary, of others and themselves. This is what Tozzi Green has been able to create at Satrokala, involving not only the trainers but also two educators who are accompanying these girls through a process of gaining awareness and becoming conscious of all the unexpressed potential that resides in every human being.
Rugby as a school of life, an NGO such as “Terres en Mêlées” which offers an educative view through a passion for sport and the Italian group of Tozzi Green, committed to the two areas of renewable energy and agriculture which has made available facilities and injected enthusiasm to offer moral support for the liberation and independence of hundreds of young adolescents.
“A journey a smile”, a motto of the girls of the “Rugby Academy Ihorombe”, appears to be the best translation possible to summarise the great ambition of combining sustainable development, solidarity and human emancipation.